If you didn't already know her, you might think Jessie Ware was just a regular girl. The family-oriented, superfriendly 28-year-old was an English lit major at the University of Sussex and had plans to attend law school. A self-proclaimed homebody and geek, the British songstress, whose debut album, Devotion, topped several best-of lists last year, does little to let on that after a stint chasing her dream singing backing vocals, now, she's a pretty big deal.
"I'm in my mum's kitchen, and she's putting some soup on for me, and I've just brought loads of bags back to the house, and she's gonna kill me," the singer jokes during an afternoon chat over the phone. "My boyfriend and I are about to move out, and I've managed to make her house an absolute state."
In the midst of a two-week break in between tours, Ware is relaxed and quick-witted as we jog through everything from life on the road to celebrity crushes and her latest work.
"It's been amazing, and I've seen so much of the world," she says.
Starting in America at the beginning of the year, she's crisscrossed the globe, hitting everywhere from Australia to Coachella, with little time for rest. "Now I have these two weeks off and I'm like, 'Oh, God. Am I going to be able to function? On a tour bus?' I'm kind of dreading the tour bus, I'm not gonna lie," she laughs. "I've never been on a tour bus for five weeks."
Dark-featured, with thick, long locks that she often slicks back into a high bun, the singer might look and play the part of sophisticated and soulful pop crooner. But speaking to her is sort of like catching up with an old friend, the kind who readily makes fun of herself and doesn't hesitate to tell you when there's something in your teeth.
Apart from a radio gig she once played on a boat -- "It was like yacht rock to the max. Like, I was singing on a boat, in Florida. It was wicked" -- Ware has yet to bring her smooth, R&B-infused electronic pop music to a proper Florida stage. While her last U.S. tour was more or less sold-out, this time around, she'll make several new stops, including Fort Lauderdale, where she'll perform at Revolution Live on October 25.
She says she's thrilled to embark on her "biggest tour ever," and she can't wait to "meet fun people that have been supporting me." And we think you should be excited too. With the following interview, get to know the soulful, unabashed singer whose fresh, dancefloor-ready tunes have inspired the likes of Frank Ocean, SBTRKT, and Disclosure.
New Times: If two artists were to get together and make a baby, and that lovechild was the music of Jessie Ware, who would they be?
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Jessie Ware: Oh, God. If I say anything I'm going to sound really arrogant. Fantasy would be like, D'Angelo with Sade and then like, Chaka Khan as the auntie.
We know you're big into soul and R&B, old and new. What've you been listening to lately? Artists or albums currently in heavy rotation?
I think Banks is a really exciting new artist. I think she's on tour with the Weeknd at the moment, and I really like what she's doing. Chelsea Wolfe -- she's really interesting, but she's not exactly R&B. I know Lorde is like, absolutely huge in America right now. She's possibly the most successful 16-year-old on the planet right now, so she's wicked. I'm really into Kanye West's album. I've just got into Phoenix, after hearing them at Coachella. Very ignorantly, I didn't know who they were, and then I saw them on stage and bought a load of their albums and I think they're wicked. And then Haim, they just had their album out, and they're absolutely fantastic. If you ever interview them, you will not stop laughing.
Will you continue working with Devotion producers Dave Okumu and Julio Bashmore for your next album? Will it remain sort of sexy and intimate?
I am, but I'm also going to be working with some other people, too. I've just been writing a bit and, I'll actually play a new track live, which nobody in the U.K. will have heard... I'm kind of itching to. I'm proud of it. I don't want to give away too much yet.
It won't stray too far from the first album, because, I don't want to, really. I think I'll probably be a bit more confident on this album, try to use my voice in a different way as well. Hopefully, if you liked the first one, you'll like the next one, because I'm not going to just go make Krautrock or something like that.
What's it like working with Disclosure? They've become pretty huge.
Yeah, they're wicked! They're lovely boys. I take full credit for them getting signed to my label that I'm on. I was the first person in that group to see them perform and like, Howard [Lawrence] wasn't even old enough to be in the club. I just remember thinking they were awesome, and so I tweet at them and they were like, "Oh! Didn't know you were at the gig." And I was like, "Yeah, I was that really geeky person that came up to you at the end and was like 'Oh my God, you're so great.'" So, yeah, I love them, and it made total sense for them to do my first remix off the album, which was stunning. I love performing with them, and I love that I got a track on their album.
You come off as super normal and down to earth, which is lovely! Have you had any moments since getting really big where you found yourself star-struck, or surprised that someone you admire was also your fan?
I got a bit star-struck when I met Frank Ocean. It was after the BRIT Awards. Frank Ocean won the Best International Male, and we were both at the same party after it. He had so many people buzzing around him, and I just wanted to speak to him 'cause people just adore him. And so I was allowed to meet him. His friend was like, "Oh, yeah? You're Jessie? He loves you! Go and meet him!" So I was like, "Oh, shit," and I was kind of just like [gushing], "Hi, I think you're so great." And he just gave me a big hug and was really nice.
He said he and his friends drive around with my album on, and that was cool. I think I have a real odd thing with Odd Future where like -- I was in L.A. in December, and I was outside the Supreme store. I've never been in a Supreme store in my life, you know, I don't really wear Supreme, but I went to buy my brother a Christmas present. And so Tyler [the Creator] gets in and high-fives everyone 'cause like, I think he's always in there. He'd just tweeted about me like a week before, or something, and my manager was with me, and he's like [whispering], "Go and say hi," and made me feel so geeky. So I Just went, "Hi, um, you tweeted about me last week. Uhh, thought I'd say hi." And he was like, "YOU!" And I thought for a second that maybe he was gonna slap me but he was like, "You! Hi!" and we chatted outside and he was really nice.
Any chance we'll get an Odd Future collabo?
Oh my God, imagine! I don't think I'm cool enough to be with them. But yeah, I think they're really talented. I remember seeing Tyler play the piano on Jimmy Fallon. He was doing his song "Treehome," and he played it so good. So, I'd like to have him play piano on my album. That'd be wicked.
Your style is pretty sleek and classy, especially compared to a lot of other young female pop singers right now. What's your take on ladies like Miley Cyrus, doing basically the opposite?
I am very interested by Miley, and I think that she is obviously a very good singer, and I -- I don't know! I haven't listened to Bangerz yet, but I shall, I shall. I think you just have to watch it unfold, you know? That whole Sinead O'Conner open message thing was kinda -- it's kind of, it's quite -- it's like Miley, all over the world people are talking about her, and -- I don't know! But she definitely wears latex better than I would ever.
What first comes to mind when you think of Florida?
Some kind of stalker-y things -- such as, I believe Pharrell lives there, so that kinda makes me want to go to Miami and find him. And then, my first experience at the Cheesecake Factory was in Florida, when I was like 15. My cousins and auntie were living in Boca Raton. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, and that was great... Also, I'm really hoping like, you know Home Alone, when they go to Florida at Christmas holiday and it rains? Please, God, can it not rain while I'm in Florida? I'm really hoping to kick off my tan for the tour in Florida.
Jessie Ware. 7 p.m. on Friday, October 25 at Revolution Live, 100 SW 3 Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20 plus fees via Ticketmaster.com.
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